Everest 2012: Timing is Everything

Everest Plume
Everest Plume

As we get closer to the predicted weather window, plans are taking shape, and some don’t like it.

West Ridge Canceled

As expected Conrad Anker has pulled the plug on the National Geographic sponsored climb of the West Ridge due to dangerous conditions. He will now join their South Col team. No word on the Eddie Bauer effort but I fully expect the same decision. Anker posted:

“It’s a very dry and windy season. Normally we have terrain that’s snowy. Your crampons have good , and you can move along at a good clip. But what we have now is that that surface layer of snow has been stripped away, leaving bare ice. It’s very ancient ice that’s difficult to climb on.”


The latest posts suggest that Saturday, May 19 is the sweet spot for this window with winds resuming on the 20th. A second window is expected around May 25th.

Some good news about the Icefall for a change, with Dave Hahn posting:

Winds are still raking the upper peaks and ridges and temperatures still seem a bit lower than normal for mid-May. Our walks and scrambles on the glacier adjacent to Basecamp reveal slightly less runoff than we’d consider normal. We choose to view this positively in that the Khumbu Icefall won’t get up to its full speed while things remain remain cool.

In speaking with Todd Burleson, owner of Alpine Ascents this week, he told me that in the past, the Icefall has actually improved towards the end of May so this may be one of those years. Of course it all depends on when the monsoon starts and if the temperatures don’t soar.


There are many teams that will skip this first window and gamble that the second will materialize as predicted. This includes the IMG’s Classic team and Dave Hahn. This is Dave’s standard procedure, he likes to let the crowds go and then have the mountain relatively to himself. But remember, this 13 time Everest summiter is a very fast climber and can work himself out of difficulties:

The weather window is forecasted to be short and the climbers are many, so we will instead take our chances on whatever more substantial break comes afterward.  But the waiting is difficult.  We are all healthy and feeling strong and we’ve now been down and resting for some time.  We want to climb soon and it is difficult to hold back when others are going for it, but our judgment is that a little more patience is called for to fully accomplish our goals.

Kenton Cool added:

Many teams here at base camp have left or are about to leave on their summit bids. It makes waiting at base camp that much harder. So why are we waiting when everyone else is going for the top, well there are a couple of big reasons. Firstly the weather window is marginal at , the wind cut off we use on Everest is30kmh…in this first window the winds are 25kmh or slightly more (but under 30). This is ok but if Keith and I want to film (and we do what to film) then this will be frost bitten finger weather. The other big concern is the number of people attempting to climb. To get great footage we need no one else in shot. I counted about 80 people climbing through the icefall yesterday, that won’t makefor good film footage……so what to do.

Position and Wait

Meanwhile hundreds of climbers on both the North and South are moving higher today to get in position for this first window. See the location table for the latest based on their public websites.

On the North, Phil Crampton, Altitude Junkies, has his team moving higher:

The entire team, westerners and Sherpas, made the big walk from base camp to advanced base camp today. The rope fixers are planning to finish the route to the summit on the 17th or the 18th so we hopefully make a summit attempt on the 19th. Tomorrow we will plan to climb to the North Col again and the following day climb to camp two and camp three on the 17th and 18th respectively.

There may be 100 people attempting the summit from the North this weekend including a very large Chinese team

On the South, Camp 2 must be a madhouse with my estimate of 200 climbers, Sherpa and guides all hanging out and staring at the Lhotse Face every five minutes.

Adventure Consultants reports:

Today’s rest for members at Camp 2 has been most welcome. We are all re-establishing our equilibrium at this altitude and mentally and physically preparing for summit bid. Today’s weather forecast gave the green light, it is all systems go.

This morning 9 of our Sherpas carried our final loads to the South Col and 5 Sherpa went to Camp 3 and cut tent platforms in the icy slopes of the Lhotse Face. These vital steps completed our teams summit preparation. Tonight at midnight one of our strong climbing Sherpas Ringin will join join an eleven Sherpa summit rope fixing team. There plan tomorrow is to fix ropes all the way to the summitt and then return to the South Col. The positive outcome of this rope fixing is vital to achieving summit ambitions on the 18-21st, the predicted length of this summit weather window. Lets put out the good juju for the rope fixers.

And from Peak Freaks:

Tim reports that our team had a good day at Camp 2, resting and visiting among the other teams who just arrived. He’s impressed with how everyone is working together to space attempts and getting to know each other up there. He also said that the team is pleased that he planned they spend 3 nights minimum at Camp 2: Day 1 to climb – Day 2 to recover – Day 3 to get pumped. The next steps will be in the hands of our communal summit fixing team, so we wait and we watch.

The Mental Challenge

This is one of the most difficult times for climbers and families, regardless of whether they are waiting or climbing.

For those sitting at base camp, the overriding thought is “What if I miss this window.” They understand the crowds, the narrow first window and their leader’s decision to wait, but still … After years of getting this chance, what if being overly conservative robs their dream?

For those now sitting at one of the high camps, every time they hear a tent wall move or puff of strong wind, their ears perk, they glance around and wonder if the wind is picking up or dying down. Their entire lives are in the hands of Mother Nature, and they are helpless.

Either way, those back home sit and wait. They stay busy pretending to go on with their daily lives but their thoughts are far away, high on a mountain; sending positive thoughts to anyone who will listen.

Thank You

I want to acknowledge all your kind comments on my site. Thanks for taking the time.It will get crazy now with all the summit pushes and I will be updating the site as needed, sometimes a few times a day.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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23 thoughts on “Everest 2012: Timing is Everything

  1. Alan, I hope everyone understands how much time you put in – thank you! Watching you last year type away at altititude was amazing. PS> I never said it but thanks for the hug when I came down from the summit excactly 1yr from today- your one of the few who understands the emotional rollercoaster that this mtn puts you through. Keep up the good work and send all your good juju to those on summit attempts!

  2. Alan, thank you so much for your daily updates. I follow a large number of climber blogs this season and like someone mentioned – your site is the one stop Everest shop. If I could only follow one – it would be yours. The coverage and descriptions you provide are nothing short of amazing not to mention the work and dedication you put in truly shows along with the experience you bring.
    Thank you very much for everything including the awareness you bring to Alzheimer’s. Best wishes to all for a safe and successful summit!

  3. The math is daunting. According to Alan’s estimate, the Hillary Step takes an hour or less (let’s call it ten minutes for a very fast ascent or descent by a skilled healthy climber (this is WAY ambitious, but stay with me)). In one hour there can be three complete cycles of the Step (three climbers up, three down) at that insanely fast pace. That amounts to close to 70 hours of time for 200 climbers. Am I missing something about the logistics there?

    1. Hi Ken, So not sure on all this but a few points. The climbers are spread all over the mountain from the South Col to Summit. The 1 hour I mentioned was from the South Summit to Hillary Step, not climbing the Step itself. You are right climbing the Step proper is short; I took maybe 10 minutes max. But if you are early like I was, there was no one else around coming or going thus no delay. And of course not every climber makes it to the Step.

      If there is a slow group, that is when bottlenecks occur at the Step and the wait can be an hour more or less but “usually” that involves less than 25 people, not 200.

  4. hey Alan,

    Thanks for the post. it’s getting exciting

    Zachary Zaitzeff

  5. Thank you Alan for your continued work!! You are my dealer for my mountaineering junkieism… GREAT work as always!!

  6. Just a great site Alan. Thanks for all the great updates. Even in my armchair I can feel the tension growing.

  7. Alan, this website is amazing!! Thank you for my one stop everest shop!! I’ll be gutted come June when my daily Everest fix stops! Roll on March next year and good luck to everyone attempting the summit ver the next few days and weeks!!

  8. Best wishes to all the climbers, guides, Sherpas and their loved ones and a safe return for all. Alan thanks for the super updates, you’re the best! 🙂

  9. Thank you Alan for your informative updates. It’s greatly appreciated. With my dear friend, Shriya attempting to make the climb to the summit this season, your posts have been very beneficial. Wishing all the climbers the very best! My love and prayers are with you all.

  10. U mentioned that there’ll be 200ppl on south col.. Whats te average no in past yrs n te avg duration of wthr window?
    Keep us posted.. Many thanks!

    1. Ishani, this is a pretty normal year with 200 climbers at the South Col at the same time.The weather windows can last from 1 day to 2 or 3 or more. Hard to tell.

  11. Thanks Alan, great stuff as usual. Do you have plans to climb Everest again? Just curious 🙂

    1. Thanks Julie and John. As for your questions of me and Everest, again? This year would have been tough given I spent 200 days away in 2011 climbing, including 9 weeks on Everest (south) so, no glad to be home this year. But, Julie, would I go again? Yes, I am trying to figure out how to return to climb the North side. If I did it would be once again to bring attention to Alzheimer’s Disease. There is so much history on the North – it really would be a “Memories are Everything” expedition.

  12. Appreciating all your efforts as always to keeps your readers up to speed, Riveting reading… I feel nervous sitting here!!

  13. Thanks as always Alan. Safe journeys to all the climbers as the excitment begins.

    Alan if you could, would you want to be there this year? Maybe on the north side?

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